A one-year genomic investigation of Escherichia coli epidemiology and nosocomial spread at a large US healthcare network

Emma G. Mills, Melissa J. Martin, Ting L. Luo, Ana C. Ong, Rosslyn Maybank, Brendan W. Corey, Casey Harless, Lan N. Preston, Joshua A. Rosado-Mendez, Scott B. Preston, Yoon I. Kwak, Michael G. Backlund, Jason W. Bennett, Patrick T. Mc Gann*, Francois Lebreton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Extra-intestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC) are a leading cause of bloodstream and urinary tract infections worldwide. Over the last two decades, increased rates of antibiotic resistance in E. coli have been reported, further complicating treatment. Worryingly, specific lineages expressing extended-spectrum β-lactamases (ESBLs) and fluoroquinolone resistance have proliferated and are now considered a serious threat. Obtaining contemporary information on the epidemiology and prevalence of these circulating lineages is critical for containing their spread globally and within the clinic. Methods: Whole-genome sequencing (WGS), phylogenetic analysis, and antibiotic susceptibility testing were performed for a complete set of 2075 E. coli clinical isolates collected from 1776 patients at a large tertiary healthcare network in the USA between October 2019 and September 2020. Results: The isolates represented two main phylogenetic groups, B2 and D, with six lineages accounting for 53% of strains: ST-69, ST-73, ST-95, ST-131, ST-127, and ST-1193. Twenty-seven percent of the primary isolates were multidrug resistant (MDR) and 5% carried an ESBL gene. Importantly, 74% of the ESBL-E.coli were co-resistant to fluoroquinolones and mostly belonged to pandemic ST-131 and emerging ST-1193. SNP-based detection of possible outbreaks identified 95 potential transmission clusters totaling 258 isolates (12% of the whole population) from ≥ 2 patients. While the proportion of MDR isolates was enriched in the set of putative transmission isolates compared to sporadic infections (35 vs 27%, p = 0.007), a large fraction (61%) of the predicted outbreaks (including the largest cluster grouping isolates from 12 patients) were caused by the transmission of non-MDR clones. Conclusion: By coupling in-depth genomic characterization with a complete sampling of clinical isolates for a full year, this study provides a rare and contemporary survey on the epidemiology and spread of E. coli in a large US healthcare network. While surveillance and infection control efforts often focus on ESBL and MDR lineages, our findings reveal that non-MDR isolates represent a large burden of infections, including those of predicted nosocomial origins. This increased awareness is key for implementing effective WGS-based surveillance as a routine technology for infection control.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147
JournalGenome Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Escherichia coli
  • Genomic epidemiology
  • Nosocomial
  • ST-131


Dive into the research topics of 'A one-year genomic investigation of Escherichia coli epidemiology and nosocomial spread at a large US healthcare network'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this